My friend Randy recently wrote about his experiences back in the 1970s with Richard Betts and the other members of the Allman Brothers Band; his essay was inspired by the fact that the Brothers' "Big House"--the place on Vineville Avenue in Macon, Georgia where they hung out during their heyday, will become an Allman Brothers museum at the end of this year. You should read his post to get the full effect of his story; the gist of it is that he got to spend some time playing music--"jamming" is how such folks put it--with the guys in the band at their farm that was located not far from the hometown that Randy and I shared--the city of Barnesville, Georgia.
In his post Randy wrote of how a mysterious figure that he calls "my buddy" and he spent time with the Allman Brothers Band at their rural retreat; I don't know for sure who his "buddy" was--although I have a pretty good idea--but the one thing I do know for certain is that Randy never took me with him to see the Allman Brothers, even though I was his "buddy" too.
Understand, now, that I have known Randy for all my life. I was born a year after him and so we were never in the same class at school but Barnesville was one of those towns where everybody knew everybody and Randy and I knew each other well. Our main point of contact was the beloved Midway Baptist Church which both of our families attended.
We were friends, Randy and I, who shared many interests and many experiences.
But we did not share in getting to know the Allman Brothers Band because Randy did not take me with him.
Now, I did know that Randy had been to the Allmans' farm; he mentioned it when we were roommates at Mercer University, but I thought that he meant that he had been down there one time. It was only when I read his post that I learned that he actually went there numerous times.
Did I mention that he never took me with him?
Wounded as I was by this revelation, I left several comments on Randy's post expressing my disappointment that he had never taken me to meet the band. I did note my acceptance of the fact that that part of his world was not a place where I really belonged; I did not play in a band like Randy did and I was admittedly and regrettably square during my teenage years (yeah, some things never change).
Taken aback and no doubt shamed by my grief-filled and anger-fueled diatribes, Randy finally told me in an email, "If--and only if--you're good between now and November we'll go to the Big House together. Just you and me. And we'll pretend it's 1975. You can drive the Comet and I'll drive the Monte Carlo. It'll be great."
Touched to the point of being teary, I readily accepted Randy's invitation. Besides, his email made it crystal clear to me why he was in the with the Allmans and I wasn't--he drove a Monte Carlo while I drove a Comet! Some things just have to be accepted. As my good wife tells me, "It is what it is."
It also was what it was.
In the great scheme of things it makes no difference, anyway. What if I had been a guitar player and what if I had been in a band with Randy and what if I had gotten to meet and even to jam with the Allman Brothers Band--or even with Wet Willie, for that matter? I truly believe that my life would have turned out very much like it did. I would have still been a Christian; I would have still gone to Mercer; I would have still met and married Debra; I would have still become father to Joshua and Sara; I would have still been a preacher and pastor--those were the ways that were meant to be for me and those truths about me make up who I was supposed to be and, indeed, who I am.
But I'm still just a little bit bummed.
"Why?" you may well be asking.
Once upon a time, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show had a big hit with the Shel Silverstein-penned "Cover of the Rolling Stone" in which they sang, "We keep getting richer but we can't get our picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone." Well, they did.
As for me, I don't want to be on the cover of the Rolling Stone. But I am haunted by the possibility that, had my buddy Randy included me in his Allman Brothers adventures, I just might have been included in the picture of the Brothers and their extended family that graced the inside of their classic album Brothers and Sisters.
Believe me, I would not have stood out at all!
So, my brother Randy, I want you to know that all is forgiven--unless you tell me that you're in that picture, in which case I'll have to be peeved all over again.
Regardless--Big House, here we come!